I am back with my artist's "hat" on, and almost immediately, I learn yet again how inventive artists are! Yesterday, in Beaune, Burgundy, an elegant exhibition of paintings by Marie José Malargé was opened. Hung on the dove-grey walls of a lovely restaurant, La Grilladine, in the centre of the old city, it was sensuous, quietly insistent yet serene and very beautiful. It will be on view in Beaune until 23rd November and is well worth seeing.
At first glance, these paintings, of flowers, fruit, semi-abstract landscapes, even peaceful cattle and dreamy fish, seemed to be pointillist oil paintings in softer tones than usually seen. But no, the paintings are on paper, and the technique Marie José uses surprised me. And impressed me.
She started out as an artist using black or Chinese ink, but felt she needed to include colour in her vocabulary. In times past, however, there were no archival pigments in the different inks for pen and ink work. So Marie José began to experiment. Her solution was to dilute gouache paints with water to a consistency that allows her to use them in pens and thus make her paintings. In other words, calligraphic paintings. I was fascinated. When I remarked that gouache is fast-drying and asked how she managed, I got a sweet smile and a typically French shrug - "you just do it by experiment and feel", she intimated.
I concluded that this was yet another wonderful example of an artist trying out all sorts of techniques until the right one appears to allow expression in the way the artist envisages. In other words, vive l'expérimentation! Marie José has developed not only a highly inventive painting technique, but she has thus achieved what all of us artists hope to do. Her work is quintessentially hers, with her "hallmark" images of subtle pen marks laid down in meditative, masterful order, celebrating serenity and sensuality. Very special!